Lydia Smith lives a quiet existence as a clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, full of quirky characters including the BookFrogs, the regulars who frequent odd corners of the store. The job suits her, as her father was a former librarian and Lydia and best friend Raj spent hours after school browsing the library shelves after stopping for a snack and Raj’s parents truck stop, the Gas ‘n’ Doughnuts. Everything changed after a sleepover at her friend Carol O’Toole’s house when, during a sleepover, Carol and her parents were murdered while Lydia hid under the kitchen sink. The news went nationwide, the murderer given the moniker of “Hammerman” for the weapon he used. Her father moved the two of them to a remote cabin in the mountains shortly thereafter, taking a job as a prison guard. Lydia and her father drifted apart in the years following the tragedy and she left for the city when she came of age, changing her last name and distancing herself from her father and her past.
One night at the bookstore, Lydia discovers one of her favorite regulars, young Joey Molina, hanging from a bookshelf on the top floor, an apparent suicide. In one of his pockets, she finds a picture from her childhood, a photo from her 10th birthday party with her best friends Raj Patel and Carol O’Toole. Traumatized by the discovery, she is then mystified by the news that Joey had left instructions with his landlady to give all his meager belongings to Lydia. Among them, a boxful of books that have been cut up, almost redacted. Why would Joey do this and what did it mean? How did he come to have that picture in his possession? What did Joey know about her tragic past? In this debut novel, Sullivan has woven a tale of suspense similar to Gone Girl, with twists and turns that keep the reader engrossed to the very end.